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Can you lose 20 pounds in a month?

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In order to lose weight, you have to stay in a calorie deficit. This means you need to consume fewer calories than what your body uses up. Doing so forces it to burn its fat stores as a source of energy.

The number of calories found in different foods varies. Those that contain a lot of water, like fruits and vegetables, tend to be low in calories. However those with a lot of fat tend to be high in calories. This is why 100 g of watercress has only 11 calories but 100 g of chia seeds has 486 calories.

To lose 20 pounds in a month you would have to create a huge calorie deficit by eating very little food.

This would be extremely difficult to do, which means the chances of you healthily losing 20 pounds in a month are very low.

The minimum number of calories that you need in order to maintain your current weight varies from person to person. Your age, gender, weight, height and how active you are all determine how many calories you need. You can use the calculator below to calculate an approximation of the number of calories you should be consuming:

Gender Age Weight Switch to lbs Height Switch to feet and inches Activity Level

This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.

For example, a 30 year old lady who weighs 180 pounds, is 5 feet tall and exercises 4 days a week will require almost 2,300 calories in order to maintain her weight. If she wanted to lose 20 pounds in a month, it would mean she would have to eat nothing at all.

She could increase the amount that she exercises, thereby burning more calories, allowing her to eat some food. But even then, it would be very hard for her to create a large enough deficit whilst still being able to stay healthy.

Losing weight this way is not recommended; starving yourself brings about many complications. Apart from the fact that you would be left feeling very hungry, you would also suffer from vitamin & mineral deficiencies and possible psychological complications.

When you don’t eat, your metabolism also slows down rapidly. This is because your body puts itself into starvation mode and tries to save as many calories as it can. Additionally, rapid weight loss can affect vital organs negatively.

How much weight can you safely lose in a month?

A healthy amount of weight to lose per week is 1 to 2 pounds. This equates to a daily deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories, which is much more manageable than a deficit of 2,000+ calories. Experts generally recommend that you should not consume less than 1,000 – 1,200 calories per day, depending on your gender and body type.

In the example above, staying in a 1,000 calorie deficit would mean that the lady would need to consume 1,300 calories per day. This is much easier to handle than a deficit of 2,000+ calories per day. And by increasing exercise intensity, it might be possible to lose even more weight. So a healthy amount of weight to lose in a month would be 4 to 10 pounds.

Controlling calorie intake can be difficult when starting out, but with some planning, it can be done. Here are some tips to help you lose as much weight as possible in a month:

Drink more water and eliminate sugary beverages

Sugary drinks are one of the main causes of weight gain. They contain a large number of calories, but when you drink them your body does not register them well. As a result you don’t feel as full as you would if you consumed the same number of calories from solid food. This often leads to a net surplus in overall calories.

A can of cola contains 140 calories and 33 g of sugar. Milkshakes tend to contain significantly more and can have upwards of 400 calories. These calories are known as “empty” calories because they provide your body with very little nutritional value.

Fruit juices should be drunk with caution as well. Whilst fresh homemade fruit juices do provide you with vitamins and minerals, they are still fairly high in calories. Eating solid fruit would be a better option because chewing helps trigger feelings of fullness.

By switching from sugary drinks to pure water, you dramatically reduce your calorie intake. Over a month, this could equate to more than 10,000 calories saved, which in turn means you could burn up to 3 pounds of extra fat.

Drinking plain water has been shown to assist with weight management because it can help you to eat less and also boosts your metabolism slightly.

Increase protein and fiber intake

Both protein and fiber help you to feel full faster, which reduces your overall food intake.

Studies such as this and this have shown that increasing protein consumption helps to reduce daily calorie intake and also minimizes obsessive thoughts about food & late night desire to eat. The former study found that protein at 30% of total calories reduced daily calorie intake by 441 calories.

Fiber also increases satiety. This study found that making a simple change and increasing fiber intake to 30 g or more per day helped people lose weight.

Foods that are high in protein and fiber include nuts, seeds, vegetables, lean meat and fish. You should be eating more of these foods and reducing your intake of processed carbohydrates such as pizza, potato chips and doughnuts.

Exercise more

Exercise can help increase the number of calories that you burn per day. The more strenuously you workout, the more calories you burn. A person who works out intensely 4 times per week at the gym will use up far more calories than someone who does not exercise at all.

Both cardiovascular exercise and weight training are important for weight management. The latter helps maintain muscle mass, which is crucial; your aim when it comes to losing weight should be to burn fat whilst retaining as much muscle as possible.

This brings up another point. Don’t rely on your weighing scale too much – some people set a goal to lose a certain number of pounds in a month but the problem with this is that when you start to workout, you build muscle. And just like fat, muscle has mass.

So whilst it may not seem like you have lost as much weight as you would have wanted to when you look at the scale, you will definitely see changes when you look in the mirror. Muscle is much more compact than fat, so as you burn fat and build muscle, you will begin to look leaner and more toned.


For most people, it will be difficult to lose 20 pounds in a month, in a healthy manner. A more realistic goal would be 4 – 10 pounds, depending on your diet and activity levels. However with a strict diet and exercise plan, it should be possible to lose 20 pounds in 2 months.